Like a thief in the night! 2 Peter 3:1-14

One day, one day soon, maybe even today, Jesus Christ is coming back again!

Here is God’s ultimate rebuke to this post-modern post-Christian world. The world which rebels against objective truth and morality. The politically correct world where the only rule is that there are no rules. The world which says that we can make and choose our own gods, or choose to have no god at all. One day the truth will come to light. One day Christ will return and on that day EVERY eye will see and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. I wish we’d all been ready!

Jesus Christ is going to return. People laugh at us when we say this. People think that it is crazy to look to the future instead of living for the present. But here is the one and only event in the future of the human race which is absolutely certain. Jesus is coming back! We still have 146 shopping days until Christmas but certain shops have already started selling their Christmas selections: we may celebrate Christmas this year – or we may not. We may worship together same time same place next week – we may not. We may go to work tomorrow – we may not. We may get home for lunch today – we may not! But Jesus Christ is returning and that is absolutely categorically 100% certain!

People who don’t believe in Jesus will mock Christians for that belief. They always have done.

2 Peter 3:3 First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.

Here are the false assumptions which underpin the whole of this post-modern world.
(1) Nothing has changed (2) Nothing does change (3) Nothing ever will change.
So people think they can live their lives as they like and there won’t be any consequences. No consequences in this life. No consequences into eternity.

Look at the way the world around and even many of our neighbours live their lives and you know this is the case. The single future event most people are pre-occupied about, the single future event most people spend their time worrying about and preparing for, is their retirement. How is their pension provision holding up in the economic crisis. Will they have to work longer to receive less? Will they ever be able to afford to retire? It seems to me that very many people give much more attention to their retirement than they do to he prospect of their death! Unless they are distracted by their houses or their cars or the start of the football season or the other varieties of mind-numbing so-called entertainment on offer.

(1) Nothing has changed (2) Nothing does change (3) Nothing ever will change. No consequences in this life. No consequences into eternity. That is how most people are living their lives.

But they are all wrong, says the apostle Peter! And there two events in history prove them wrong. Things do change. The events of creation prove it – once there was nothing and now there is something because God spoke into the darkness and created the light! Things DO change! And then during human history at one point in the past things did drastically change: The Flood! God acted in Judgment then and he will do so again. Things DO change! The world will not keep on going for ever and ever. Jesus Christ WILL return! Maybe not this week. Maybe not this year. Or maybe yes this week! Maybe even today!

2 Peter 3:8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

The Early Church expected Jesus to return in their lifetime. Every generation since could have expected Jesus to return in their lifetime! And we should be ready. It is only God’s mercy and patience which gives yet more time for human beings to return to their Maker. And we need to be ready – because the Son of Man will come at the hour we least expect Him!

2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that Jesus is coming back. And the bad news is that Jesus is coming back! Because the day of the Lord will be good news for some and bad news for others. It will all depend on whether you are ready!

Good news for some – the hope of heaven!

2 Peter 3:13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

We can’t really imagine what the new heaven and the new earth will be like but we know they will be more wonderful than we can possibly imagine!

Rev 7:13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” 14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,
“they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

What a glory it will be to be in the presence of the Lord forever! This has been the Christian hope for 2000 years. But it seems to me that our generation of Christians is looking forward to the return of Christ much less than earlier generations. With the exception of some who have completely misunderstood the Scriptures and become obsessed with the Rapture and what it would be like to be “Left Behind” most mainstream Christians have almost completely forgotten the expectation that Jesus will return soon and could even return today, at the hour we least expect him.

I think that the reason we think so rarely about heaven and the return of Christ is that our life on earth is relatively comfortable. Compared to the martyrs of old who gave up their lives for the sake of the gospel. Compared to brothers and sisters in other countries who have so little and whose daily lives are such hard work. Compared to those facing persecution for believing in Jesus. The hope of heaven must mean so much more to them than it does to us.

No more hunger. No more thirst. No more scorching heat. No more tears. In the presence of God Himself. Things to look forward to! We spend too much time thinking about this world and too little time looking forward to the next! But whatever this life throws at us we will always have the hope of heaven! Thanks be to God!!

Because there is another uncomfortable Bible truth which our comfortable generation of Western Christians generally ignore. That is the certainty that things are going to get worse before they get better! Health, wealth and prosperity churches have got things completely wrong. Even some large and successful mainstream churches have got the balance wrong. We rightly celebrate Christ’s victory on the cross and his triumphant resurrection from the dead and the hope of His glorious return. But these do not guarantee success and victory in our Christian lives and in our churches. The prophecies of scripture do not promise a golden age of blessing. Jesus Himself instead warns of times of great tribulation and persecution, in which the only glimmer of hope for true believers will be His return.

Matthew 24 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.
9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Jesus is coming back. But things are going to get worse and worse before that day!

Jesus is coming back – and there will be a new heaven and a new earth. That is our Christian hope! This is Good News – for us! But let us remember that it will be bad news for others!

Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, There are times when we might be tempted to complain to God about how few people come to church – the lack of attendance at churches services, or prayer meetings. But we know what God’s answer would be. The attendance in heaven is not what he would like it to be!

Bad news for others – the day of judgment!

By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

Rev 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire

The Bible is jam packed full of God’s warning to human beings who spend their lives running away and hiding from Him. You can’t hide forever. You have to be ready to meet your Maker! Judgment day is coming!

The challenge to holy living!

Since the return of Jesus Christ is the one event in the future which is absolutely certain – we should be ready for it! We should be living in the light of eternity.

2 Peter 3:11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. 14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

Heaven should affect our activities and ambitions, our recreation and friendships, and the way we spend our money and time. If I believe I’ll spend eternity in a world of unending beauty and adventure, will I be content to spend all my spare time staring at reality TV, game shows, situation comedies and football matches? I won’t want to waste time on things which don’t matter!

Somebody once asked the great evangelist Moody the secret of his preaching. He replied that he did not believe he had ever preached a sermon without being conscious of the truth that Christ might return before he had finished preaching!

HOLY lives – set apart for God – spotless, blameless, sinless, at peace with God

GODLY lives – centred on God and on spiritual things

LOOKING FORWARD – expectation!!

When we look forward to a holiday we make plans for it. We spend days or weeks making sure we have everything prepared, tickets, accommodation, all the things we need to take with us, working out what we will do when we get there. When we are expecting guests we make plans for them – getting everything they will need, making sure we will be ready. How much more should we make sure we will be ready when Christ returns!

The Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, tells a parable of a theatre where a variety show is taking place. Each act is more fantastic than the last, and is applauded by the audience. Suddenly the manager comes forward. He apologizes for the interruption, but the theatre is on fire, and he begs his patrons to leave in an orderly fashion. The audience think this is the most amusing turn of the evening, and cheer thunderously. The manager again implores them to leave the burning building, and he is again applauded vigorously. At last he can do no more. The fire races through the whole building and takes the fun-loving audience with it.
“And so,” concluded Kierkegaard, “will our age, I sometimes think, go down in fiery destruction to the applause of a crowded house of cheering spectators.”

Jesus Christ is coming back. Good news for some – bad news for others. Like a thief in the night! The one absolutely certain future event! I wish we’d all being ready!

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